Pictures: Andrew Gilbert
ONE of Warrington’s best-loved historical assets – the Walton Hall conservatory range – has officially re-opened following its £2m restoration.
A special opening ceremony brought together a range of people who have helped bring the magnificent conservatories back to life, from the labourers to the design specialists – all with their own passion for heritage.
Also celebrating the re-opening were a number of people who have supported the project during development and delivery, including Tiffany Hunt MBE, Chair of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in the North of England; the Friends of Walton Estate; and former conservatories staff from the past 50 years, who have given their time for the creation of a new audio social history of the estate.
It is the start of an exciting new era for the conservatories, which had fallen into disrepair for almost 25 years after closing to the public in September 1993.
In 2016, Warrington Borough Council was successful in securing £2m in funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, paving the way to the restoration of the conservatories, working with a team of heritage specialists.
After three years of partnership working with Rosslee Construction, the conservatories are shining once more and ready to re-take their proud place part of a vibrant Walton Hall estate.
The conservatories now have a bright future as an educational hub and a place of accessible learning, with a sustainable partnership formed with Myerscough College and Walton Lea Partnership to deliver apprenticeships, qualifications and opportunities for social enterprise.
This collaboration will also lead to the development of other areas of the estate, such as the historic formal gardens, conservatory planting and zoo, all of which will further increase public participation and learning.
Education will be at the heart of the opening ceremony, with entertainment provided by children from Stockton Heath Primary School and classical music quartet Flutiful, and certficates presented to learners and staff from Walton Lea Partnership who have gained a qualification with Myerscough College. The students will be conducting tours and talking about their plans for the future in the Conservatory Range and Shippon.
The restoration of the conservatories is entirely in keeping with the original, containing thousands of pieces of slender, elegant timber. During the renovation, each piece of this timber was removed and tagged before being assessed for rot. This original timber was then used internally with new timber being used for the external beams.
The original ironwork has been repaired and reused throughout the conservatories, and with over 90% of the bricks dating back to 1899-1910 in excellent condition, this project has been true to its original construction; guaranteeing the significant heritage history of the site for future generations.
Warrington Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure and Community, Cllr Tony Higgins, said: “The journey of progress to reinstate the Walton Hall conservatories to their former glory has been a long one . There have been many people involved in its transformation all playing a vital role in ensuring its rightful place on the Walton Estate.
“Supported by the National heritage lottery fund ,the council and armed by a strong friends group, Walton Hall and it’s glass conservatories is a destination to be proud of .
“Walton Hall may have its roots set in the past but it’s now looking towards the future with the partnership of Myerscough College and the Walton Lea project all firmly positioned to deliver educational and supportive activities.
“I’m immensely proud to be the cabinet member responsible , partnership working is vital for success and this is a fine example of that.”
Find out more about the Conservatory Range Project and the rich cultural heritage of Walton Hall estate at waltonhallgardens.co.uk/the-gardens/glasshouses/